Wednesday 8 January 2014

How much should you spend on a utility bike?

Summary: Don't buy a utility bike too expensive to feel you can't use it for any trip or lock it up anywhere. But don't spend so little that your bike is unreliable, unenjoyable to ride and requires frequent maintenance or upgrading. Also, past a certain point (under $1000), a more costly bike won't significantly add to your speed or efficiency.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Jeff Blum

Related Posts:
Key decisions that will help narrow down the most suitable bike to buy
How to save money and get a better quality bike for your buck
Essential gear for cycling and what type to get

1. Don't buy a bike so expensive it prevents you using it for some trips
- It's important to not over or under spend on your utility bike - the bike you use most for transport. Overspending is the less predictable danger as you won't realise you've done it till you find yourself not using your bike because you're worried it will get stolen or damaged (due to weather or route conditions). As a rule of thumb, you should aim for your bike not to be in the top 20% of bikes according to value.

- Also don't get bike components or accessories that significantly increase your concern about theft or damage. E.g. Expensive dynamo hubs that power lights are really useful but their value can mean you are reluctant to use your bike for certain trips due to the risk of theft. Unnecessarily expensive accessories (e.g. a Brooks saddle) should definitely be avoided. See: > How to prevent your bike being stolen

2. Buy a suitable U lock and ensure you can easily carry it on the bike
- Always locking up your bike properly with a quality U lock will enable you to invest more in a higher quality utility bike and not have to worry so much about theft and thus not using your bike for certain trips. Many cyclists have U locks but don't always carry them as they have nowhere to attach it to their bike; make sure you buy a type that you can attach. See: > What type of bike lock should I buy?

3. Get a "pub bike" if the risks of theft or damage for some trips are a real barrier
- If you are able to afford and store more than one bike, then you can also buy a cheap "pub bike" in addition to your normal utility bike. A pub bike is the cheap, low-quality bike you use at night to ride out for drinks and may leave locked up in high-risk areas for extended periods. Having a pub bike as an option for high-risk trips may allow you to invest more in your main utility bike.

4. Make sure your primary utility bike is suitable for all desired trips, flexible, low maintenance and enjoyable to ride
- Typically you only need one utility bike so it's worthwhile spending enough so that you can enjoy using it for many purposes very frequently without problems. E.g. A second-hand, rusty mountain bike with gears that don't work well and that can't carry anything will likely sit unused most of the time. If your bike isn't practical, convenient, efficient and enjoyable, you won't use it often.

- Instead you should focus on the most common transport trips you intend to make by bike and ensure you invest enough in a bicycle and equipment that meets all of these needs. If distance and speed are priorities you may want to pay more for a lighter and faster bike. If hills are involved you should check your bike's climbing efficiency is suitable. If carrying things (shopping, work, recreation) is required then you need to invest in a bike flexible enough to enable carrying things but without major weight penalties (e.g. readily-detachable storage options). See: > Key decisions that will help narrow down the most suitable bike to buy

5. More expensive bikes aren't always faster or more efficient
- Buying an expensive carbon bike may save a few kilograms but is often unlikely to contribute significantly to saving time on your trips - there are more significant constraints when riding in cities. Past a certain point, there is little direct translation of extra expense into speed or efficiency. See: > It's not about the bike